Joe Wright’s (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) new action thriller Hanna proves that originality is once again the key to entertainment. Along with the director’s digression from splendid yet expected romantic dramas, The Chemical Brothers take on the role of film composer and charge their musical energy into the thrilling motion picture. The duo composes an interwoven texture between sight, mind, and sound, as they highlight the many layers of psychological conflict in the film. Hanna isn’t your typical mindless stream of electronic beats but a colorful mix of natural sounds metamorphosed into its heightened musical form. The band takes score making into a new realm without barriers, creating a fusion of a variety of sounds and styles. From the steady march of a military operation to a music box’s dainty lullaby, the Chemical Brothers’ original motion picture score is dynamic track by track.
Possibly the most disturbing figure in Hanna is Isaacs aka The Sandman (Tom Hollander, The Soloist), a sociopathic hit man with a love for whistling throughout his nefarious endeavors. The Chemical Brothers musically define this villain in two key tracks, “The Sandman” and ‘The Devil is in the Beats”. As Isaacs embarks on corrupting all the innocence that crosses his path, The Chemical Brothers use “The Sandman” as a green light for vice and corruption, for the tune lends itself to a whimsical lullaby. The skipping melody reverberates from lighthearted xylophone and triangle, creating a childlike tune. However as the piece progresses the familiar ostinato decelerates, foreshadowing ominous events.
The duo reveals their innovative technique in the evolution of the lullaby. The band utilizes all beats electronic to charge up the “The Sandman” and narrate Isaacs mission to make a nightmare a reality in “The Devil is in the Beats”. The track begins with Erik’s response to his young assassin’s question, “What does music feel like?” After the definition response, “the combination of sounds with a view to beauty of form and expression of emotion” there is no turning back, as the tracks hits the ground running with some serious manipulation recording technology to start the action. What makes the track unique is that it never releases “The Sandman” from its foundation. It is a recurring leitmotif that serves as Isaac’s map towards corruption. Along with some synthesized vocals to emphasize the track’s steadfast syncopation the piece ends with what sounds like a vast influx of harsh wind, signifying a sudden abyss. The track’s open ending signifies Isaacs defeat or triumph in spoiling the meager hope left in the film – The Chemical Brothers let’s you decide.
“Hanna’s Theme” reveals the lighter side of the film, as Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement) experiences an adolescent freedom in contrast to a lifelong confinement to orders. The track delineates the young assassin in a seemingly organic fashion with a stream of high-pitched vocals, guiding the main melody to a wider musical terrain. As “Hanna’s Theme” matures electric guitar with an added distortion underlies other musical textures. The result is a surprising balance between the two contrasting atmospheres; a sense of liberation and obligation meld together in a non-invasive manner, perhaps revealing the sixteen year old girl’s dual identities.
Currently the most purchased track on The Chemical Brothers’ filmic project, “Container Park” is Hanna’s conflict tattoo, never too far behind a fight sequence. The track is a spot on summary for Hanna because of its focus on the many modes of action. The futuristic tones, relentless sounds of a wind tunnel, crescendos consisting of eastern scale electrophones, and an addictive riff on the electric guitar are just a few key characteristics of “Container Park.” What does this mean for the listener? For one thing, boredom is forbidden at the entrance to the piece. Despite minimalistic moments The Chemical Brothers never allow the track’s sense of urgency to subside, as anticipation can be the most unforgettable facet of a scene. In short – the subsections of “Container Park” become villains of their own, accompanying the characters on their various quests, virtuous and vicious alike.
The Chemical Brothers truly exemplify themselves as authentic musicians of the modern age in the original motion picture soundtrack for Hanna. Not only is there a strong union between narrative and music but a unique intricacy, as the film’s psychological battles are expressed through the score as well. In this sense, the dynamic fusion of character and score creates a casual intimacy between the audience and the movie. In addition, the duo masters recurring motifs without belaboring them throughout the score. The Chemical Brothers’ approach to Hanna blurs musical barriers in order to disorient listeners and make them want to do it again.
( 9.5 /10)
- Megan Acheampong